by Patrick Sloan
In drum corps four months can go by in a blur of activity. In this remarkable case, the rush of activity was felt not in the heat of the drum corps field, but behind the scenes during the traditionally dormant months of September through December.
Coming off of its busiest and most successful season competitively since the corps’ inception in 2001, Carolina Gold had managed to make impacts in the local, regional and national level. However, there was a sense permeating the corps that the true potential of the organization was not being achieved and that the members’ experience could be improved with some changes. With a strong infrastructure and record interest in the corps, the time was ripe to make some overhauls to the senior corps program in Raleigh.
Thus, not long after DCA World Championships in Scranton, PA, the Gold board of directors tapped Dwayne Barnes to serve as executive director for 2004 and beyond. Barnes, a Raleigh resident, brings a wealth of organizational, mobilization and networking skills to the table as well as a robust vision for the future of Gold as a performing unit. He has close to 15 seasons of participation within the junior and senior corps ranks, notably with performance experience in all captions. In additions to his contributions to local bands for the previous 19 years, he is the founder and executive director of Carolina Visual Productions. CVP is a pioneer of the winter guard activity in the Carolinas and Virginia, having grown from its hometown roots in 1987 to a regional gold medalist and recognition as a national finalist. As a result, CVP now operates three separate classifications of winter guard. Although Barnes also remains heavily involved locally in programs at the secondary and collegiate level his drum corps roots run deeply.
“Drum corps has probably been the most significant influence in my life, and because of the activity I have formed many friendships and alliances,” he said. “I believe in the future of Carolina Gold and have committed myself to the continued growth and rise of the organization.”
Assisting Barnes in a day-to-day operations role is Jason Malugen, serving as assistant corps director. Malugen is a charter member of the corps and a key player in the formation and support of the sponsoring association. He has a proven track record in hands-on management and smooth operation of facility, event and tour functions.
Wm. J. Le Roux (or “Joe”) joined the corps in early October in the senior administrative role of creative director. Le Roux’s primary function is to administer the creative and instructional teams in the adult-based musical enrichment programs provided by Carolina Gold. He was appointed to this position based on his highly regarded experience. This experience includes an extensive background with respected and widely spread programs at the secondary educational level, as well as the university level and beyond. He arranges music professionally and provides clinician work and adjudication regularly at the national level. He has earned the respect and official endorsement contracts of several well-known companies within the music industry. In the early weeks of rehearsing and show design, Le Roux has exhibited a genuine care for the corps and of the members comprising it, almost single-handedly mitigating old grudges between corps members and promoting the corps through an incredible word-of-mouth campaign that has resulted in a staff line up that would make most junior corps blush with envy.
He started this task by making several key appointments in early October, notably Grammy Award nominee Larry Kerchner as music program advisor. Kerchner is a prolific composer, ranging the artistic spectrum from commercial advertising to theatrical and film with every hue in between. Drum & bugle corps enthusiasts know his legendary work with the Bridgemen and Star of Indiana. Berklee College of Music and Boston Conservatory educated, Kerchner’s music is published and performed worldwide and will be a cornerstone of the artistic effort of Gold this year. Joining this team comes the knowledge and savvy of Chris Previc as staff coordinator. If Kerchner can be called a living testament to drum corps history, than Previc can be called it’s prodigious future, with fresh ideas on visual design and education in movement beyond the simple dot-book.
Coupled with the corps’ largest-ever instructional staff, the corps has decided to take an inventive risk by performing a contemporary fusion of jazz and rock from one of the most critically successful and popular groups of the last decade, the Dave Matthews Band.
Built around the unique rhythmic signatures and jazz motifs made famous by the band, the 2004 show, “Hangin’ With Dave,” will appeal to a wide a cross-section of music lover. Drum corps fans can expect to see a lot of the things that already make the activity exciting and intense, as well as some new perspectives and fresh ideas. Gold’s commitment to a different and appealing show has never been stronger.
And if there wasn’t enough newness to Carolina Gold, while based in and providing service to the North Carolina research triangle, they have shifted their rehearsal about two hours south of their previous facility. Now more centrally located and regionally accessible in Smithfield, NC, the corps was invited by Smithfield-Selma High School to make their facilities home for the 2004 season. Gold’s first experiences there have been delightful and they have been wonderfully flexible in opening their school and their arms.
With credibility comes recognition, and with continued corporate support from Innovative Percussion and new relationships built with Remo, Paiste and Up-Front Footwear, the name of Carolina Gold as a brand can really be leveraged as a name synonymous with quality.
“We’re entering these exclusive equipment and support services agreements in the hopes that long term and mutually beneficial relationships can be built and fostered,” Barnes said.
Le Roux is enthusiastic about the affiliations, saying, “Gold is promoting these products because we believe in musical and performance excellence ourselves, and these companies share that vision. We encourage programs we come in contact with to use their products. I have been with Remo and Paiste for more than 10 years now. I have found that their service support and dedication to their artists is the best in the business!”
Like a new penny, there is a crispness and anticipation in the rehearsal and ensemble environments at Carolina Gold already. As the first strains of the corps song, My Friend begin to echo through the Smithfield halls, it is clear to see that this is not a corps forgetting where it came from, but one whose future is primed to foster a new sense of confidence and success.
Editor’s note: Patrick Sloan is responsible for public and media-relations writing, as well as the corps’ interactive component, but he wrote this piece strictly as an impartial freelance endeavor. This piece draws from officially released material but does not necessarily express the official views of the Carolina Gold association.